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IP/07/1103

Brussels, 17 July 2007

New Commission proposal to strengthen control of synthetic drug BZP

The European Commission will ask the Council to introduce drug control measures and criminal sanctions in relation to the psychoactive substance 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP).

Vice President Frattini welcomed the decision and stated "... This decision is an illustration of the European Union's risk assessment system at work. We have a responsibility to protect European citizens against dangerous psychoactive substances such as BZP".

A specific risk assessment procedure for new psychoactive substances carried out by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has found that the use of BZP can lead to medical problems even if long term effects of the substance are still unknown.

The Commission has therefore decided to ask the Council to place BZP under control in accordance with the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances

BZP is a central nervous system stimulant. For recreational purposes, it is sold as tablets and capsules via internet sites, in 'smart' shops or herbal shops. On the illicit drugs market, BZP may also be sold as the popular drug 'ecstasy'. Thirteen Member States and Norway have detected BZP in powder, capsules or tablets.

If the Council adopts the Commissions proposal, Member States must act as soon as possible, but no later than one year from the date of the decision, and introduce control measures and criminal sanctions

Background

The Commission took this decision on the basis of the evidence collected through a risk assessment procedure for new psychoactive substances that was adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in 2005.

The Council Decision of 10 May 2005[1] on the information exchange, risk-assessment and control of new psychoactive substances provides for a three step procedure that may lead to placing a new psychoactive substance under control.

The first step in this procedure concerned the issuing of a Joint Report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol on the available information on 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP). This report was submitted to the Council on 22 February 2007.

Following the provisions set out in the Council Decision, on 23 March 2007 the Council requested a risk assessment on BZP to be carried out by the extended Scientific Committee of the EMCDDA. The Commission, Europol and EMEA were also involved in this assessment.

The main results of the risk assessment are:

1. Like amphetamine and methamphetamine, BZP is a central nervous system stimulant, but with a lower potency (around 10% of that of d-amphetamine).

2. Apart from the risks inherent in any substance that causes tachycardia, raised blood pressure, agitation and hyperactivity, BZP can lead to other medical problems. Clinical reports from patients who have consumed BZP suggest an association with grand mal seizures, even in those without any previous history of seizures. However, this finding is based on a very small number of cases.

3. Users have reported a range of adverse reactions such as vomiting, headache, palpitations, poor appetite, stomach pains/nausea, anxiety, insomnia, strange thoughts, mood swings, confusion, irritability and tremors. Some of these occurred in the ‘comedown’ period, and some persisted for 24 hours after use.

4. BZP has been found in post mortem samples, however, the extent to which BZP was implicated in the deaths is not known as in all cases other substances or other circumstances were involved.

5. For recreational purposes, BZP is sold as tablets and capsules via internet sites or in 'smart' or herbal shops. On the illicit drugs market, BZP may also be sold as the popular drug ecstasy.

6. Thirteen Member States and Norway have detected BZP in powder, capsules or tablets, ranging from 1 up to 64,900 tablets. There is no evidence that suggests a strong involvement of organised crime.

7. BZP has no established and acknowledged medical value.

8. The Risk Assessment reveals a lack of conclusive scientific evidence on the overall risks of BZP. However, due to its stimulant properties, risk to health, the lack of medical benefits and following the precautionary principle, there is a need to control BZP, but the control measures should be appropriate to the relatively low risks of the substance.

The Commission's decision to propose to the Council to make BZP subject to control measures and criminal procedures is the third and final stage in the risk assessment process. The Council shall decide on this initiative of the Commission by qualified majority on the basis of Article 34 (2) (c) of the Treaty on European Union.
For further information on the activities of Vice-President Frattini, please visit his website at:

http://www.ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/frattini/index_en.htm


[1] OJ L 127, 20.5.2005, p. 32. Council Decision on the Information Exchange, Risk Assessment and Control of new Psychoactive Substances (2005/387/JHA).


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